Line manager skills

The effective line manager uses a very wide range of people management skills. There are many features, opportunities, pressures, processes and organisational partners affecting the people management choices the line manager makes in the relief and development sector.

For this handbook the authors have selected a range of people management skills to explore in greater depth.

The purpose is to:

·         cover line manager skills that are priorities required at the different stages of the whole people management cycle.

·         reflect on the degree and clarity with which you, as a line manager, work with your organisation’s Human Resources function in practising these skills at the various stages of the people management cycle.

The use of any one of these skills is not limited to one step of the cycle. For example, the line manager’s feedback skills can be used in the Recruitment, Managing, Development and Learning, and Transition Management stages of the cycle.

The specific involvement with the HR function cannot be definitely prescribed here, because of the huge range of organisation structures and HR function establishment in this sector. The following sections of this handbook cover these skills:

Core Skills:

·         SMART objectives

·         Problem Solving

·         Giving and receiving feedback

·         Asking Questions

Situational Skills:

·         Supporting performance

·         Enabling change

·         Building teams

·         Dealing with difficult situations

Core Skills

The skills selected here are generic skills that are called on in many different people management situations.

SMART Objectives

Line managers need to provide clarity and direction to the people they manage. Developing ‘SMART’ objectives with individual reports is a core skill that will support clarity of expectations.

Example of a SMART objective

Work to carry out: You are going to update the donor funding application, monitoring and Reporting deadlines over the next year on the database


Enter all the donor funding deadlines the donor database by Thursday 19th November so that the team can view an updated report that details all the application, monitoring and reporting expectations of our current donors between now and November 30th next year

Problem Solving Line managers need to solve problems every day. Understanding this tool will support team and individual problem solving.

Problem Solving Cycle

Steps in Problem solving

1. State the problem

·         What is the problem as it appears to your at this stage?

2. Gather facts, feelings, opinions

·         What happened, when where, how?

·         Who and what is affected?

·         Who want what to change?

3. Restate the problem

The information gathered will help you check your initial assessment

4. Decide whether to take action

·         What will happen if you do not do anything?

·         How will you or others feel about that?

·         If this is not your problem, are you prepared to give it attention because it matters to others?

·         What are the consequences if you do not take action?

·         What are the benefits if you do take action?

5. Identify options

·         generate ideas

·         do not rule any out until you have discussed them

6. Check out different options

·         Who must be involved?

·         How, when, where?

·         What might go wrong?

·         Who might get upset?

·         What backing and support will you need to persuade others? Can you get this?

·         What are the risks? What are the benefits?

7. Agree a solution and an action plan

8. Evaluate

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